Wednesday, April 29, 2009

old haunts and new beginnings

Hello everyone. This afternoon, I geared up and went to Symposia's with my mobility instructor Ray. Now that the microphone was properly oriented, the direction of things was correct. Now, I just have to do something about the damned wind. The low cut-off filter seems like a good thing to try first. I've also ajusted the volume of the Trekker Breeze to a better level that I can hear clearly through the speaker but doesn't override other conversation too badly when it hollers out information. Live and learn as they say.

Originally, I had planned to start with the route to Ron's apartment. Ray and I discussed the route alternatives for that over a coffee. I wasn't certain how I'd feel going back there again given the utter emotional devastation I just experienced there. Intelectually, it would be completely unfair to blame the restaurant for a decision made by a woman who I made the mistake of thinking was a lot more certain of what she wanted from life than ultimately proved to be the case. However, emotionally, I wasn't at all certain I could avoid having that kind of painful experience associated with it. Happily, I discovered that I still feel completely at ease there. It's a place I'd feel comfortable going to and eating at alone. Going there with friends or a girlfriend would be far preferable but,... well... one step at a time I suppose. It'll be quite a while before I get to the point where I'm confident in getting there and back but I think it'll make for a much better starting route to master.

The route to Ron's will take something like two hours each way. It'll involve three busses and two transfers at those damned oval transfer points. There doesn't seem to be any way of avoiding those things. Between Ron and Ray, perhaps, I'll discover a way to cope with them better than before. The kind of time it's going to take to master that route frankly illustrates why I could get so much farther in life if I found a sighted companion. It'll eat up four-hour chunks of God knows how many days both for me and for Ray as well as Ron when he helps me try to learn it. I just wish more people had an understanding of what they ask of people like me when they just think we should learn the routes to everywhere. What takes perhaps half an hour in a car and a brief examination of a map takes me utter ages to learn with any degree of competence. All that time spent learning to get to Janene's was rendered a complete waste of time in the space of the half an hour during which our engagement ended.

First things first though. Getting to Symposia's and back with confidence will take a while I expect. There's also the route to Adam's to start on with him eventually. I just hope all of this leads to some sort of breakthrough for me either in mobility difficulty easing or socially in life. I'm going to need a greater sense of being connected to a community if I ever hope to finish Enchantment's Twilight. Having Janene break up with me has severely damaged my sense of finally making some headway in that area. I know she didn't mean to do that. However, when you get right down to it, I ultimately got the same message from her that I get from pretty much the whole sighted world: "Mike, you're a great guy. I value your patience and purspective highly. However, not highly enough to follow through with marriage. Lets just be friends instead so I can keep what I value from you without the serious commitment we were once both looking for and you still are." "Mike, you do great work and have a deep sense of honesty and loyalty. Can't add you to our payroll though. In fact, it's not even worth getting you there and back to do volunteer work for us." Intelectually, I know Janene doesn't belong in that catagory. She truly did love me until the stress of what she was trying to do wrecked things for us. She fully intended to be the woman who saw enough love, compassion and worth in me to fundamentally change my life for the better.

I've always held that good intentions damned well ought to count for more than they regularly seem to in this world. That was, I believe, a large part of why the Audyssey magazine and the community which grew up around it was so successful. That's one of the qualities which has made me a better friend to people. Perhaps, it is just a matter of time before I'm able to truly forgive her the pain she's caused me and approach her again as a friend. I'd like to think I were strong enough to do that. I'm not though. There just wasn't enough good reason to dump me like that after all we had built together. Right when there would have been time to start regaining lost ground, bang! It was just so capricious.

Part of me hopes she discovers to her sorrow just how hollow and meaningless life can seem when you're going it alone. Now there's a thought which isn't up to my usual standard of charity towards others. "For every anguish, there is an equal and opposite reanguish." Those words occur written in blood on a blackboard during the course of the only recurring nightmare which still haunts me occasionally. They certainly added to its overall creepy tinge but had no real significance before now. In the afterglow of unilaterally shattered love and trust, I find they make a truly aweful kind of sense. I think it'll take a lot more than time to emotionally put Janene in the catagory she belongs in. A truly good person who just wasn't ultimately ready to commit to marriage. What could have been is just too freshly torn away. I don't expect to find anybody new or to have my life circumstances changed to the point where she's no longer the closest I came to making some sort of real progress down the path of life. Not for quite a long while anyhow. If and when I actually find someone else who truly values what I have to give enough to make the commitment Janene wouldn't then what? "Darling, would you mind if I reacquainted myself with my ex-fiancee?" That just seems to beg for trouble. Supposing, God knows how many years down the road, I finally get situated in affordable housing. I suppose I'd then be tempted to have her over for a dinner. That's going to be something I look forward to doing for all of my friends who have had me over their way so often. For her though, it would be somewhat marred by an element of "This is the kind of thing I would happily have done for both of us these past years." A very awkward friendship to actually start. She doesn't seem to have any such difficulties. Am I just some dinosaur that the implications bother me?

Last weekend went so well that I guess I figured I was pretty much through the worst of getting over being dumpped. There's obviously still a ways to go on this ride full of hills and valleys. I'll have to keep a bit more of a guard up going forward for a while. Glad I didn't have a drink tonight. I'm not feeling all that sad or anything. There's just a kind of grim emptiness which usually wouldn't have a chance of overtaking me after such a good weekend. That's warning enough for me. Unless I'm happy and among friends, I won't touch another of those delicious beers in the basement until I've found more solid emotional ground. I've just got to keep plugging away at stuff until I'm there. Tomorrow, I'll take the digital recorder out for a stroll to see how effective the low cut filter is against wind noise. There's got to be a way to overcome that better without having to buy yet another thing. I'll also listen to at least one of my Sherlock Holmes stories and make a point of playing two games. A new episode of Spark would have been most useful this week but there isn't one. I've also already listened to the excellent Digital Flotsum episode which has at last appeared. I'm very happy indeed to know that Mr. Fenton plans to keep that going despite having a month to wait until the next one. I'll hopefully also remember to grab the new From Our Own Corespondants episode which should also make an appearance tomorrow. Other than that, I'll let the day take its corse and see what it brings other than the noise generated by people working on downstairs windows.

Monday, April 27, 2009

An excellent weekend

Hello everyone. Last weekend went quite well. I went Saturday morning to visit with my two nieces. Mostly, my father and I took care of Amia while Ava was taken to gymnastics by her special gramma and Dan. Amia was a lot more cheerful with the situation this time around and Dad certainly had his hands full taking her outside. She always likes to grab everything in my bag as well as my cane. She seems particularly fascinated with my headphones. I may bring a less expensive pair for her to examine next time. For some strange reason, the new security software I switched to decided to block my netbook's wireless connectivity. This happened both while out at Dan's as well as at home. I went through cartwheels trying to solve the problem to no avail. However, the next day, everything was working again. Part of the reason for this may have been my resetting the cable modem. Rogers is supposed to be switching to a more secure network and this could have been chiefly responsible for my trouble at home. Thank goodness the whole mess resolved itself. Having a netbook which was so utterly secure that one couldn't even use the Internet would have been a painful irony had the situation lasted long.

Mark and Wendy had me over on Saturday night for a delicious chicken dinner. They seem to be doing quite well. I'll hopefully be able to do a few things with them over the Summer. Mark was the first one to become a bit tired this time around. Usually, over the past while, I've been the one who was liable to nod off after dinner. Nice to hear somebody else doing it for a change. The conversation was great as usual.

Sunday morning, I went to the Meadowvale Cristian Reform church for the first time. The difference between its congregation when compared to the Oakville one is absolutely striking. They're quite a lively bunch. The pastor certainly has a healthy combination of thoughtfullness and a respect for modern culture. He also rolls nicely with the unexpected. The other people I've met so far seem quite friendly. It'll take a while to find my stride but I think there's good cause for optimism when it comes to making some real connections. I'm certainly in for some very interesting sermons. It's nice to have something to look forward to next week.

Later in the afternoon, I decided to catch a couple of Ultimate Warrior episodes on Spike TV. That show is going to give me a lot of excellent insight into ancient weapons and combat which will certainly improve the battles in Enchantment's Twilight. A very interesting way to spend a couple of hours. We visited some family friends for an excellent dinner including a wonderful steak. Weekends don't go much better all in all.

Today, my digital recorder at last arrived. I found a Blindcooltech podcast reviewing the DS 50, a predecessor to my DS 61, to be most helpful. The buttons and most menu options remain precisely the same. I took it out for a first trial walk which certainly proved that my basic idea has a good chance of working. Of course, it would help if I didn't have the microphone oriented backwards when I walked the route. One glance at how I had it was enough for my father to solve that one. The other issue was the wind. Today was quite gusty. That problem will doubtless render recordings made on windy days less useful. I may ultimately have to acquire a wind screen for the mic. With the zoom set to wide, it certainly captured the surrounding sounds well. I can set things up before leaving, start recording, and not even think about it until I get back. The voice guidance works quite well. When replacing the batteries, the one nearest the hinge of the battery cover must have the knob end facing down. The outermost battery has the point going out of the recorder. More testing is called for but I certainly have the basics down nicely.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

rattle and bang

Hello everyone. Today's the day my phone line apparently dies at some point. It hasn't happened just yet. What with the pounding and banging, today isn't exactly conducive to talking. Some workers are updating the siding on my parents' house. I presumed most of the hard knocks would come from below me. However, siding apparently hangs from the roof or something. My room is on a corner of the house so there have been a lot of sharp hits. Sometimes, I half expect to have a hammer smash right through the wall or ceiling. Thankfully, it's quieter now in the afternoon.

I've switched to the Eset Smart Security package to protect my computers. So far, other than with the clarity of the license options prior to purchase, I'm extremely impressed. Once you deactivate the graphical interface, everything is totally accessible. I had to buy a separate license for each computer at a cost of $89 per two-year license. Not bad. However, had I gotten a two-user pack, it would have been much more reasonable. I can apparently combine things when it's time to renew my licenses in a couple of years. Other than that snafu, things have gone quite well so far. I'm going to plough through the manual to see about this laptop mode to try and reduce the impact on my netbook's performance or battery.

Lake Jo is pretty much out of the question this year. Simply put, I can do a whole lot more with $300 this Summer if I don't go. I'm just spent too much updating everything and getting ready for the married life I was so damned certain I was about to start. I can't say I'm at all bitter about the lack of extra funds. All the investments I made were designed to minimise what I might have had to eventually spend Janene's money on after marriage. They'll stand me in very good stead both for when I finally either get affordable housing on my own or move in with somebody I can actually damned well trust. I've rejoined PlentyofFish again in the faint hope of eventually finding such a woman. Who knows? Perhaps, I'll actually beet the stupendous odds and meet somebody new this Summer. Realistically, it'll be the dead of Winter before I'm even remotely likely to get anywhere. In the meantime, I can perhaps do some good for people in the forums. I managed to do that before from time to time.

Mobility plans have somewhat altered also. Anje and Tony are moving to Woodbridge so there's no point at all trying to learn to get to their current place. Adam's also thinking of moving but I suspect it'll be quite a while before he does. Also, his place is within walking distance and shouldn't be nearly as hard to learn. Wouldn't you know it? I finally work up the resolve to throw every last trick I have at this whole mobility thing and people either move or decide I'm not worth marrying. Go figure. One thing I'll have to look into is going to a church around here. I didn't exactly intend to stop going for good. It just seemed more practical to start going once Janene and I had settled somewhere. Also, things at the old church just never seemed to get beyond "see you next Sunday." Church is probably the only real practical avenue I have for perhaps meeting new people and for potentially doing some good for people who aren't halfway round the world from me. As much as I enjoy the emails I get, it would be good to feel like I'm part of a physical community. I just wish I could have a sense of permanence in life. Preferably, I'd like to find a woman to spend the rest of life with. That kind of permanant relationship would use a lot more of my potential to good effect and be far more rewarding. Failing that, a place that I could permanantly call my own would give me at least some sense of progress in life. As comfortable as it is here, it just isn't where I should be at damned near thirty-five. The light at the end of the tunnel has certainly winked out for now. I know I've learned a lot and am much more prepared now. I just have to keep on hoping, try to be patient, and make the best of life that I can meanwhile. That starts right now. I'm going to look into the Meadowvale Christian Reform church and see if I can't at least put something new into Sundays.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Taking Stock

Hello, everyone. It's Saturday afternoon. Although still bitterly disappointed at Janene's decision to end our engagement, I believe I've regained the bulk of my equalibrium. My sleeping will take a while to get back to true normal but I've been in far worse shape in that department. Poor Ron was extremely tired Thursday when I came to see him. The afternoon was somewhat lackluster. However, dinner with Mark and James was quite excellent. Those two managed to move the evening along very nicely indeed. Ron slept through the TV we watched despite the excellent company. His friends know him well enough not to hold that against him. The next day, Ron was in far better shape. We had an excellent time. I treeted him to lunch and introduced him to a few audio dramas including the Sherlock Holmes series.

Mark was quite surprised that Janene broke up with me. He remembered how appreciative she had been that I didn't judge her on her appearance and saw her for who she was as a person. Finding somebody else who'll do that shouldn't be too much trouble for her when she's truly ready to commit to a marriage. She works hard and is a very conscientious person. That must display itself visually somehow. I just hope she eventually stops holding slights from the past in her mind and bringing up things already apologised for as ammunition. She may indeed forgive people for their ill-spoken words but she doesn't let you forget them. That's a kind of unhealthy mental weight which causes a great deal of damage; a kind which does indeed make a bad impression with me. Letting things go is a very necessary part of the art of forgiveness as much for one's own peace of mind as it is for those of us who occasionally do and say hurtful things. One should absolutely confront people who have caused pain with their misdeeds. However, there has to come a point of letting things lie firmly in the past.

Will I ever be able to start over with Janene as a friend? That's likely to remain an open question for some time. How things ended was just so arbitrary. She just dropped me like a rotten egg right when there would have been time to work on the relationship. Perhaps, after I've either found somebody new who has no problem with my reacquainting with an ex lover or I at last find myself in a different life situation, things will look different on that score. Right now, she's the woman I was prepared to start and share a whole new life with and step out of my safety zone for only to find that I wasn't ultimately worth more than friendship after all. She's a very loyal and good friend and it seems so wasteful not to take her up on her offer. However, I invested too much hope, trust, and love in what we could have had together. I'd always be thinking of love lost. Part of the hesitation also stems from the unhealthy relationships I've observed in the blind community between exes where people just haven't completely seemed to let go and move on. However, it seems to be the thing to do in the sighted world these days. Perhaps, it's yet another bit of my old-fashioned stoginess which I'll eventually just get past.

Thankfully, breaking up an engagement does indeed seem to be different than ending a marriage. I don't feel that same sense of utter failure and paralisis which plagued the months following the end of my marriage to Rebecca. Single life has taken me up into its clutches again. Instead of resenting having nothing to do on a Saturday, I'm glad of a time to reflect and take stock. While I don't for a moment believe Janene correct when she said that I sell myself too short, there are definitely one or two areas where I'll aim for a better fit when I resume the hunt for someone to share my life with. I've already covered the holding a grudge thing. I don't have a lot of patience for rehashing old slights. Another area has to do with my love of listening to audio material such as audio dramas. Very early on in our relationship, it became clear that Janene just wasn't all that interested in those. She would always rather watch TV with my parents even when it completely bored me. There's so much I would loved to have shared and discussed with her. As much as I want to journey more into the sighted world with someone special, I also want to feel that my audatory world adds meaningfully to her life over a longer term. The only other major question has to do with the amount of stress and/or change in life. I consider myself fortunate to be broken off with because she wants time to live as a single rather than because of somebody else or a serious issue with me. Ron has gone through that pain and I certainly don't envy him one bit. Regardeless, I would just as soon not go through that kind of raw pain of having a relationship broken off again if I can help it. It might fade to manageable levels more quickly but it's still damnably sharp and takes a toll. A substantial part of my overall optimism and trust has been worn away by this experience. Although I still very much feel that marriage is my best and most fulfiling way forward in life, I don't know how many more times I can go through this kind of break-up before just calling it a day and resigning myself to making the best of being single for life.

Financially, I've come out of this quite well. I've just put some of the money I had been saving for the wedding towards taking advantage of a fantastic sale for Systemaccess. Basically, for around $299 US, I get a screen-reader licensed for two computers plus a flashdrive. I have to get a new flashdrive having apparently lost my 8-gig one somewhere. However, I'll be able to plug that into any Windows computer and it'll come up talking. If I ever decide to get a Braille display, it can handle that too. Best of all, it will be updated free for life. I never have to pay for an SMA again. Depending on how well these folks keep their screen-reader updated, I may never need to bother with ADP again. I'll just be able to purchase a computer like anybody else and get it talking. I'll keep my current Jaws version around for the games and other things which Systemaccess can't deal with as well. One of said things is Winamp. It's certainly useable but Jaws's scripts offer a lot more functionality there. Still, I'm already starting to get used to the differences.

My folks are off babysitting in Hamilton tonight so I'm going to grab a TV dinner and eat it while listening to some news in a while. Looking at the Lake Jo schedule for this Summer, I see a few possibilities for a week away. This week, I'll give them a call and see what's actually still available. The digital recorder hasn't arrived yet. However, it's been paid for and should be on the way. It'll be good to get started on this audio documentary idea soon. Making certain that ODSP and other folks have my new phone number before I lose the one I currently use is another top priority for this week. After the 22nd, I'll just have the cell phone. I still find it hard to conceive of my desk without a regular phone on it. All this change. I just wish I had more of a sense that it was leading me somewhere new. Intelectually, I know that it will eventually. I'll learn a whole lot over the next while working on this project. However, the main thrust of it has well and truly been pulled out from under me like a rug. I just have to keep believing that all this will put me right where God wants me to be so that I can do the most good.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Getting On

Hello everyone. It's been a couple of days now since Janene broke up with me. Quite a wild internal ride. That shaken twisted gutted feeling denied me any sleep that first night. Tuesday was pretty much a complete write-off. How can one concentrate on anything after having such hopes for a better future dashed? Everything seemed so certain and so good for us. She truly loved me and got on fantastically with my family and friends. Everyone is completely shocked. This even included Adam who I wasn't at all certain could be shocked by anything.

Yesterday was quite a surprise. It was as if something inside me just said: "Mike, you did everything you said, kept all your promices, and gave her everything. You were willing to step out into absolute uncertainty with her. The fact that she feels the need for time on her own after what she's been through over the past while is a huge letdown but not your fault! Cheer the hell up!" I found myself feeling quite happy in an all too fragile punch-drunk kind of way. I was able to listen to CBC Radio and find it interesting. It was a podcast that was, appropriately enough, all about the concept of the haven or sanctuary. I didn't exactly get anything done but had a couple of good conversations with people. Last evening, I went out with Adam for some wings. Monahan's still does them absolutely scrumptiously if a lot more expensively than before. We had a very enjoyable time and conversation. However, I wasn't really up for a gaming cession afterwards. It works for him but for me, like alcohol, I can only enjoy them safely when I'm happy with life in general. They could all too easily entrap me if I were too careless about that. I don't think it'll be too long before I can start enjoying them again without reservations. Getting back to serious writing and work on Enchantment's Twilight is going to take a while longer. So is truly getting started on the mobility initiative. I'm going to get a lift from my parents for this much-appreciated visit with Ron and his friends. Once Ron's got a new cane tip and/or a whole new cane, I can try getting him to show me the route to his place via the bus. Ray, my instructor, will also be able to help with this as well as getting to Tony and Anje's place. Truly mastering those two routes plus getting to Adam's is probably going to take quite a while. There's also the digital recorder which has yet to actually arrive.

Other things also loom ahead to keep me busy. I'm going to switch entirely to using my cellphone. It's just not economical to pay for both and I don't know how long I'll be here. Over the next week or so, I'll have to make certain everyone has the new number. Strange to think of local incoming calls as being the most expensive. Skype will take care of most outgoing calls and also let me get voicemail without paying through the nose. I believe it'll work out reasonably enough. Also, in another twenty days or so, I'll start trying out a new computer security package. AVG has been pretty good to me over the years but I've heard good things about Nod32 Internet Security in terms of better accessibility for blind people as well as it being faster and less resource-intensive. Before I lock myself in for another three years with AVG, I figure I may as well look at the road not taken first.

It's afternoon now. In a little while, I'll be heading over to Ron's for a visit. I can't seem to locate my flashdrive for some reason. I use it frequently to move files between the netbook and PC as well as just to have a backup of important stuff. I'll probably have to get a new one and then, right after I do that, the old one will reappear. I had an incredibly long sleep last night and feel strangely clenzed. Things certainly don't seem as bleak and I know life will sweep me along given some time. I just hope somebody else comes along before time and solitude take too high a toll. Regardless, I'll make the very best of whatever comes my way that I possibly can and continue to share my gifts with the world.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Life After Janene

Hello everyone. I've gotten almost no sleep at all so forgive the likely long-winded nature of this entry. Last evening, Janene decided to break up with me. I don't think I've ever experienced such sudden anguish. She took me to Symposia's and we had one last coffee together. I knew our relationship had suffered as a result of all the work and school she was preoccupied with but I had absolutely no idea this was coming at all. I truly thought the love we had found prior to this would see us through. I felt like the future just imploded on me. My mind just short-circuited in there. I hope I didn't say anything harsh to her or the waiter. Neither deserve that at all.

Janene made it as clear as she could that it wasn't about my shortcomings but about her needing time on her own to find her new direction in life. That's probably the nicest way to break up with somebody there is. What's more, I know she meant it. We were honest enough with each other that I can trust her on that front. She has given me a taste of genuine true love. Even as I sit here in private pain of the worst kind, I can't help but be grateful for her bringing that into my life for a short while. We had some fantastic times together which I'll always remember. She showed me that there are some sighted people out there who can see past disabilities, lack of money and employment. I don't feel the same sense of bleak hopelessness that I once did when searching for love in the sighted world. Statistically, given my last experience before Janene came along, I know I'm in for a long hard slog through rejection or simply being ignored. However, I know that God won't let all my love, patience and compassion go to waste. He'll open another door of some sort when he thinks I'm ready. I just have to keep on knocking. It'll be a little while before I start that up in earnest again.

Meanwhile, I've got to try to recombobulate somehow and keep moving forward. I frankly don't have the heart to keep working on the game at the moment. Nore do I think I'll be able to do much other creative writing besides blog entries and correspondence. I feel all twisted up inside and absolutely ancient at the same time. I'll get back to my creative work once I've picked up life's pieces and time has healed me up a bit. Given that, it looks like the mobility agenda gives me the greatest chance to soldier on productively and perhaps even meet some new people along the way. Visiting with friends more often and getting to them under my own power would at least make for a bit more of an active life. I may also look into going to Lake Jo this Summer after all just to have something to sharply contrast with normal life to look forward to. It may not be too late yet.

Before I close off this very painful entry, I have a few final words for Janene that I couldn't say earlier. You offered your sincere friendship and that's certainly a worthy consolation prize. It's not the first time that has been offered me by somebody who decided to walk away from a possible close life-long relationship. It will probably eventually be the first time I accept such an offer. However, when I think of you as I no doubt often will, I first have to be able to see past the happy life I believe we could have lived together. That's going to take time and change in life circumstance beyond what I can imagine at the moment. Farewell for now. When you find yourself again as I have absolute faith that you will, I hope you find a good companion who can see your worth as I still can despite the anguish. Sooner or later, you'll very likely hear from me again. I don't relish the thought of good people like you being absent from my life. The very best of luck to you, my former true love.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

my Easter weekend

Hello everyone. This Easter weekend sort of snuck up on me. I haven't been attending church for quite some time now and don't really plan to until Janene and I settle down together. She's taking advantage of the holiday to see her parents. I'm seeing a lot of my nieces and younger brother. We went over to Hamilton yesterday. Ava and Amia were very happy and cute for the most part although Ava had to have a timeout at one point. Amia likes to grab and examine all my stuff. I think she's slowly learning to get me to feel what she brings over to me or wants me to help her with. At one point, she brought me over one of the fold-out padded books they have. I presume they have pictures and stories in them. Apparently, mom and dad got a pretty cute picture of me with Amia in my lap enjoying my pretending to read to her. I had the book upside down but she didn't seem to mind. That probably won't last long. Hopefully, she'll be gentle in her remonstrance of me for that kind of thing over the years ahead. Ava's getting pretty good at getting me to feel things. She, however, has the advantage of being able to verbalize a lot more. They both love to examine my netbook bag and the equipment it contains. Amia also took a keen interest in my cane this time around. It was staggeringly too big for her but Dad was there keeping careful watch while she briefly held it fully extended in the living room.

Dan's new Keg is doing pretty well so far. He's looking forward to his hours going back to more normal ones now that the opening has happened and things are running smoothly. He's also very pleased with his Apple computer. While we were there, he installed a printer he had previously won but never used. It's a very compact little thing with a front section which opens up rather like a wide and toothless gaping maw. I think it helped that the kids were kept occupied while he did this.

We all went out to Pizza Hut for Lunch. It was the first time we had all done that as a family on the spur of the moment and it felt very good. We all piled into Dan's new van and off the seven of us went. They have a pretty good crispy chicken salad at Pizza Hut. The chicken reminded me strongly of chicken wings. Dad wasn't all that thrilled with his. However, the kids certainly enjoyed their food and got to try the dessert pizza. I have now found something I can enjoy more at Pizza Hut when Janene wants some pizza. It's one of her favourite places. They were very well behaved in the restaurant. Dad got up and went around the restaurant with Amia showing off his granddaughter and dealing with her growing restlessness rather effectively in one fell swoop.

At last, Janene has completed her two classes. I fervently hope that she'll be able to enjoy having a bit of a break before her final class starts. Things have gotten a little strained over the past while. School and work have kept her extremely busy. We haven't done a whole lot together other than dinners out during the past while. Adding to that, she's decided that she wants to postpone our marriage until she's taken the time to sort out what she wants from life after completing her university degree. That hit me pretty hard. It's a perfectly sensible thing to do but after you've been mentally and financially preparing for such a big life change, it's quite a letdown to have all that swept back for who knows how long. She still wants me to move in with her so that we can get a proper sense of how compatible we are. Again, a very sensible idea. However, it took a bit to adjust to that very different prospect emotionally. I don't know what it'll do to my standing on the subsidized housing list when we move in together and/or marry. I presume I'd get cut off when our incomes had to be considered as a legal couple. As things turn out, I'm still on the subsidized housing in Hamilton. I got confused earlier and thought I was off that list as well. To deal with the inaccessible forms and letters they very occasionally send out in order to verify that a person waiting for housing is in fact still interested, I need sighted assistance. I had earlier decided not to remain on the Oakville list. My good friend Ron not withstanding, I just wouldn't want to end up in Oakville as a single person. I have too many painful memories of another apartment there. An apartment where blank spaces which I could detect the moment I stepped through the door were once occupied by my stuff before my first marriage slowly died. I wouldn't mind if Janene and I ended up living in Oakville together. That would make for a triumphant return and let me start fresh there. Ending up back there as a single person would just be a somewhat perverse twist of fate. It's the first time I've ever had such a strong negative situational thought about a place. Earlier on, I also just gave up entirely on the Mississauga housing list where the wait was something like ten years on average. However, Hamilton had some pretty advantageous stuff for blind people such as accessible door-to-door transportation for starters. If I'm ultimately destined to end up single, it seems that this is where I could make the most of that life. I'd be absolutely stunned if I heard from Hamilton prior to two or three years from now. That ought to give us lots of time to be as certain as we can be that things will work out well for us as a life-long couple. Would I walk away from an opportunity to finally have a place of my own for Janene? Presuming nothing happens to break off our engagement, absolutely. I'd do it in a heartbeat. What we've gone through is merely a bump in the road. Nothing has happened to lessen my faith in her or my love for her.

Another unfortunate habit we damned well have to get out of is getting into sensitive conversations at the end of the day when I have either already begun to go to sleep or am contemplating achieving that state of oblivion in the very near future. Last Wednesday's conversation happened after I had actually just begun to drift off. I was telling her about the discovery my mobility instructor Ray had made when he consulted the schedule and map. He found a bus route which he thinks will prove far easier than the train route I had been working on for what feels like forever now. I thought she'd be pleased at this discovery and we'd then move onto other more pleasant topics. However, she chose that time to start questioning me on my troubles with mobility and try to understand why I found it such a struggle in life. She, of course, was also fully awake and ready to plunge back into working on her last paper right after we said our good-nights. She didn't mean to attack me but I've always been sensitive about my Achilles' heel and that was what it started to feel like. Combined with everything else, it started to feel like all the progress we had made over the past year and a half was crumbling away. A complete over-reaction on my part. I got somewhat frustrated and angry. She then pulled the "this isn't getting my paper done" line on me just when I was starting to get my proper perspective back. Honest, accurate, but damned infuriating. We sort of recovered but I lay back down in bed wondering whether I was too frustrated to sleep or two tired to remain frustrated. Ultimately, neither side exactly won the day. I tossed and turned and thought about the whole damnable issue.

My parents have always been very supportive of me. Having lived either with or near them for most of my life, they have mostly been available to take me where I wanted to go. They could get me to a place by car in fifteen minutes to half an hour. Meanwhile, learning how to travel such a distance by myself with any degree of competence typically takes me ages. We're talking months of lessons from a mobility instructor. Hours and hours of practicing until I'm finally able to do it safely on my own given good conditions. It takes very little for me to become lost. Routes are ribbons of reality comprised of a set of instructions and an experiential sense of the environment I travel through. Once I've learned a route, I have to keep using it frequently or it just fades from my mind. It just doesn't seem to anchor itself to anything. As a result of this, I've been very reluctant to squander my time trying to learn to get places.

While I'm travelling, I can't do anything else with that time at all. If I'm navigating, I need to pay as much attention to everything as I can. It isn't about safety so much as maintaining a sense of where I am as best I can. I'm always tensely alert. Thankfully, I've gotten to the point where I can converse with my fellow travellers should an opportunity arise. However, I doubtless sometimes seem preoccupied due to trying to keep mental track of location at the same time especially with newly learned routes. Other than that, travel time is not only lost to everything else but stressful to boot. I'd never dream of pulling out an Ipod or netbook or cell phone. My ears particularly have to remain unobstructed and ready. I don't even like to wear hoods or carry an umbrella due to how these things detract from my ability to hear things properly.

I don't mind asking people for help if I do get lost. However, throwing myself out there knowing I would almost certainly be forced to take up the time of one or more strangers just seemed irresponsible. I therefore tried to organize my life around the availability of getting lifts and arranging things so that I minimized the number of requests I'd have to make. Growing up, I had very few places I actually wanted to go. There was nowhere I had any interest in going alone. Shopping has never been something I've particularly enjoyed. There are also no places one can go in order to meet and converse with people which don't revolve around alcohol or loud music. I've never really been the outdoors type either. As a result of this, I've lead a fairly academic life.

Things are changing now. My parents aren't exactly elderly but they won't be able to help me get places forever. They also have grandchildren who are very deserving of their time. They do quite a bit of baby-sitting currently and will doubtless do more things when they get a bit older. Janene will also feel a whole lot better about things if I can get to more places independently. Technology is also much more on my side now. As quirky as it can be, the Trekker Breeze can do a lot to keep me from getting hopelessly lost. My father and I just walked a route out to near the Meadowvale Town Centre. Unfortunately, doing this and then looking closely through the user's guide reveals a limitation I wasn't previously aware of. I can't create landmarks which are only announced during a specific route. I can just indicate things in such a way that they are always announced when I'm in the vicinity. That changes how one should describe such landmarks in the brief four seconds allowed per landmark. I'll have to do two landmarks in some cases to better direct me both ways on a route. Ah well. Live and learn.

Two more devices have also been added to my arsenal. I have a cell phone now. In a worst case situation, I could find out where I was and call a friend or a taxi. That's also an important consideration. With these two devices, trying to become more mobile makes a great deal more sense. I've also taken the step of ordering an Olympus DS 61 digital recorder. I'm going to use it to record routes as I travel them. This way, I'll have the journeys recorded in four-directional high quality sound plus whatever verbal notes the people who help me or I decide to point out recorded in real time along the way. That's something I've never tried before and it's the only idea I have which might let me re-familiarize myself with a route after an extended period of not practicing it. I'll also be able to use it to better fine-tune the names of the landmarks I set in the Trekker Breeze without having to recreate them.

Over the next six months, I'm going to embark on an extensive campaign to learn routes to and from where my friends and Janene live. This is going to entail practicing for a good part of most days. I'm reserving weekends as down time. Also, I'm not about to march out there in heavy rain. My other reservation is for visits with family, friends, or other special events. Failing those things, I'll be out there trying to overcome my travel hang ups by sheer dint of force. Everything else is on the back burner with one exception at least until September. What happens at that point depends largely on how Janene and I feel. We haven't broken off the engagement or anything like that. She just needs some time to find her new life balance and direction. I'm profoundly happy that she wants me to be an important part of that.

But what, you may wonder, is this one exception that isn't put on the back burner? Well one of my major issues with spending all kinds of time learning to get from A to B is that so often, in my experience, nothing concrete ever seems to result from all that work. I could never be happy in a situation where I had to constantly work to maintain my memory of all kinds of routes. My guide could never have been written under those conditions. I put two years of main effort into that project and it truly seems to have made a very big difference for people even if the larger blindness organizations don't seem to give a rat's ass. I've put over a year of effort into learning a route to get to a go station and have gained a little more than prior mobility efforts. I can now comfortably get to a local corner store. I'm also somewhat more comfortable with bus travel. I'm not at all easy with those damned transfer points where multiple buses can be present at the same time. Some things, those transfers included, I don't think I'll ever be alright with and will go to some trouble to avoid. For the most part, I see myself remaining a mostly social exploratory traveller. There are many experiences I would love to have with a person or people who I know and trust but wouldn't find at all worth while going to alone. I'd far rather take the time and effort to cultivate a friendship than try to learn a long route. To make certain that I come out of this with more than routes which time will doubtless eventually render useless as friends move or other circumstances transpire, I am going to attempt to produce an audio documentary of my experience. The exact nature of the end result will depend largely on the source material I collect as I record my travels. One way or another, I hope to have something which goes to the heart of issues surrounding expectations of mobility by the blind and of the blind. Along the way, I hope to become more comfortable speaking into microphones in general, editing and dealing with sound files, and to gain a bit more overall poise. We'll see how all that goes over the next while. Stay tuned, presumed small audience. You'll hear about my experiences first in this blog if you aren't otherwise personally connected to me socially. I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter weekend.